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Inside Victoria’s ‘unsafe’ emergency departments

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Two hospitals – Bendigo and Bairnsdale – warned of emergency department delays this week, while Albury-­Wodonga Health delayed some non-urgent surgeries. A Bairnsdale spokesman said, on the day of delays, ­patient numbers were up by 25 per cent and three patients tested positive to Covid, which required extra cleaning and “additional medical and nursing resources”. Others such as Warragul’s West Gippsland Hospital avoided surgery cancellations this week, but chief executive Dan Weeks said six beds ­remained closed amid Covid-induced staff shortages. The pressure on Victoria’s “deteriorating” health system continues to mount because of shortages in staff and hospital beds, says Sky News reporter Julia Bradley. Ms Bradley said there are shortages in staff and hospital beds. “It’s a perfect storm — it’s not just affecting the city … but also the regions,” she told Sky News Australia.Insiders said just a few Covid cases were enough to stretch small hospitals’ limited resources, while staff shortages continued to fuel a crisis that would not end soon. Australian Medical Association board member Simon Judkins, who works regionally, said he expected regional hospitals to call code yellows – ­denoting internal emergencies – more often as flu and Covid cases increased this winter. The Herald Sun revealed last week multiple ­regional hospitals had called code ­yellows.A Health Department spokeswoman said hospitals were under pressure from Covid, rising flu cases and ­“issues from deferred care”. Dr Judkins said he expected regional emergency departments to get busier in the coming months, but waiting times that would have triggered an internal emergency pre-pandemic no longer seem to. “We don’t raise the alarm as often as we used to,” he said. “What’s the point in calling a code yellow if nothing seems to change?” He said regional hospitals were struggling to keep beds open while some emergency departments were short on senior staff. “There’s a couple … running so short on senior staff, it’s ­becoming very, very unsafe,” he said. “There’s a number of really significant issues that I think are probably going to ­become more of a problem.”Rural Doctors Association of Victoria president Rob Phair said the pressure on GPs was the “hidden crisis” and had a flow-on effect for hospitals. Australian Medical Association Victoria president Roderick McRae said Covid had emphasised “all of the structural and underlying issues”. The Health Department spokeswoman said it was ­recruiting or training 7000 staff, including 5000 nurses. “We know Covid is continuing to affect the health system with more than 1500 staff off work sick most days,” she said.



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